WHO guidelines highlight importance of mental health interventions at work

Beckett Frith
Beckett Frith

Senior Content Officer, Mental Health at Work

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has today released their recommendations for employers to help them better support the mental health of their employees.

These evidence-based guidelines include advice on helping organisations to provide staff training, feel confident offering individual and group interventions, and challenging stigma in the workplace.

Mental health conditions cost the global economy around $1 trillion each year

WHO researchers estimate that 15% of working-age adults have a mental disorder at any point in time, and there are 301 million people living with anxiety – many of whom are in work. They believe that mental health conditions are costing the global economy around $1 trillion each year, so it’s critical for employers to think about mental health in their organisation.

And we know there is a strong link between our work and our mental wellbeing. Good work can help you to feel valued, to build friendly relationships, and add purpose​Purpose PDF This guide can help you and you colleagues discover your purpose, and ensure you are working towards it every day.Free By: Unilever View resource to your life. Poor working conditions, on the other hand, can harm our wellbeing.

A cleaner mops the floor

The WHO guidance, named #MentalHealthAtWork, looks at three strategies to address mental health at work:

1. Prevent – Changing work environments and cultures to minimise psychosocial risks and prevent workers from experiencing mental health conditions.
2. Protect and promote – Providing training to generate awareness of mental health conditions and spotting the signs early to promote early intervention.
3. Support – providing support to workers who already have mental health conditions to ensure that they are able to thrive.

You can find a link to the recommendations here.

Is more important than ever to think about the mental wellbeing of your employees

Over 2000 employers in the UK have signed up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment​The Mental Health at Work Commitment introduction guide PDF This PDF guide, created by the Mental Health at Work team, explains more about what the Commitment is, how to sign up, and what to do next.Free By: Mental Health at Work (website) View resource, which is a simple framework based on the Thriving at Work​How to implement the Thriving At Work mental health standards in your workplace PDF This accessible guide from Mind is designed to help all employers to understand and implement the core standards recommended in Thriving at Work, the Stevenson/Farmer review of workplace mental health.Free By: Mind View resource standards, pulling from the pledges and standards that are already out there, using up-to-date research, from UK employers and mental health experts.

The WHO report reveals how it is more important than ever to think about the mental wellbeing of your employees, and signing the commitment is a promise to your staff that you want to make a positive difference.

Two colleagues share a chat

Many of the recommendations in the new report reflect the standards within the Mental Health at Work Commitment. For example, the report seeks to help organisations to lower the risk of someone’s job causing them emotional distress, which might lead to lower mental wellbeing. It lists common triggers, such as poor job security or long hours, and suggests ways employers might be able to change in order to help their staff manage better.

And in the Mental health at Work Commitment, signees are supported to proactively ensure work design and organisational culture drive positive mental health outcomes.

Trained managers are linked to staff feeling confident in seeking the wellbeing support they need

WHO draws attention to the importance of managers, suggesting they are in a strong position to create positive change for their reports. The researchers found evidence to suggest that training​Line manager mental wellbeing training PDF This PDF is part of a mental health and wellbeing programme in Unilever. Its aim is to increase your awareness of employee emotional health and how to prevent stress in the workplace.Free By: Unilever View resource managers around spotting the signs​How to spot the signs of a potential mental health issue PDF This one-page PDF from Nuffield Health suggests some warning signs to look out for that could indicate someone is experiencing poor mental or emotional wellbeing.Free By: Nuffield Health View resource of mental health and support routes helps to increase their confidence and improve attitudes around mental health within the workplace. Trained managers also were found to be linked to staff feeling confident in seeking the wellbeing support they might need.

The study also highlighted that training was really important when helping to support team members with existing mental health conditions, with such benefits seeming to be at their strongest if training is delivered twice a year, within working hours.

Through the Mental health at Work Commitment, organisations can ensure all staff are suitably prepared and educated to have effective conversations about mental health.

A hairdresser using a tablet in her salon

Mental Health at Work is a website curated by Mind, which aims to connect employers to the information they need about mental health as quickly and easily as possible. It allows anyone to search through over 500 resources, and find exactly what they need. It caters for organisations of all sizes, and across all industries. Visit the website here.

Sarah Merrington is Head of the Mental Health at Work initiative at Mind, who are behind the Mental Health at Work Commitment. She believes employers who want to learn from the WHO report could benefit from signing up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment.

“It’s clearer than ever that employers have a powerful impact on the mental wellbeing of their staff,” she says. “By signing the commitment, you are making a bold statement – that you care about mental health in the workplace, and you want to adopt the best practices to support the people who work for you. If the WHO report has spurred you into action, then signing up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment is the next step.”

For more information about the Commitment, and to sign up, click here.

About this website

Your guide to mental health at work

Whether you work with 10 people, 10,000 people or just yourself, paying attention to mental health in the workplace has never been more important.

Find out more

The Mental Health at Work website will close on 30 June 2024.

If there any of our toolkits, stories and resources that you may want to refer to later, we recommend you download them now.

The Mental Health at Work Commitment, the Interactive Guide and some key supporting content will move to Mind’s website after this date.

Find out more in our FAQs